I recently received a very negative review from a woman claiming to be a Christian reader of speculative fiction. Bad reviews are never enjoyable, but the reason for this one struck me strangely because she didn’t seem to understand the point of the story and was confused that my plot could even be a Christian plot line at all. The review was for my Descendants Saga novel: Fallen.
This book is a Harry Potter type of book that attempts to blur the lines of good and evil. It is filled with magic, spells and every filthy occult practice. As such, it does not bring glory to God, but serves only to confuse.
Perception is everything. Many reviewers have rightly said this is a dark story. How then can it be Christian?”
I responded to this person with an explanation that focused upon the Word of God and what we find written there. The Bible gives a very comprehensive look at human history and the way God has dealt with mankind in various situations. It explores the history of the Jewish people in great detail in the Old Testament and never fails to give us both the good and the bad found in man by his nature. We are even given a great deal of understanding about the evil powers that are set against mankind and their rebellion to God and his purposes. None of it is sugar coated in the Scriptures.
I’m reminded of the fall of man in the garden, the terrible judgment of God upon mankind during the flood that killed at least thousands, if not millions, of people who did not serve God. We find idolatry, sorcery, homosexuality, bestiality, murder, and rebellion to God throughout the pages of scripture. Does that make the Bible full of darkness? Of course not. What it means is that God’s Word gives us a realistic view of evil as well as good. That’s what truth is. It’s not sugar coated for the masses, it lays bare all that we are and teaches us about what we could be.
This is where I think an exciting, morally right story becomes useful. As the authors of Christian speculative fiction, we have the opportunity to cast light on subjects. We don’t have to glorify evil in order to cast light on the subject, but neither should we shy away from making a villain a villain. An editor once told me that she was looking at one of my manuscripts and had to put it down for awhile because she was startled by the ruthless nature of my primary antagonist. She said, Your villain really is evil.
I’m not sure if it was meant to be a compliment or not, but it certainly got me thinking. Is there any reason why the bad guys in our stories shouldn’t be bad guys? Isn’t that the point? In fact, I believe that there should be a pretty fair gap between what we call good and what we call evil in a story. I’m not saying that our protagonists should be virtuous supermen who never tell a lie or have a bad day. After all, a good man or woman in the Bible was hardly perfect.
Consider David who was a man chosen by God to be the king of Israel. He was called a man after God’s own heart, but he wasn’t perfect–not even close. He slept with another man’s wife and fathered a child by her. He devised a plan to trick the man into thinking it was his own child. When that didn’t work, he had the man killed in battle. That’s pretty ruthless, eh? David was far from perfect, and God judged him for it. The child even died as a direct result. Not exactly sunshine and roses, but we do see truth. Man’s wickedness and God’s justice and judgment revealed, followed ultimately by his forgiveness.
The Bible is full of such examples, and they never get sugar coated. As a matter of fact, I refrain from mentioning some of the details of many more gruesome stories in scripture because some of you might blush and the article might not get printed. But a solid understanding of evil and corruption in the human heart also shows us why our Savior’s sacrifice was so necessary, why we need to understand our own guilt and seek God’s forgiveness.
Good Christian novels can do this. As authors we can show people why we need a savior in our plots of corruption and greed and dark things. We don’t have to glorify evil as so many do, but we shouldn’t gloss over the reality that it does exist. And we can show it for what it is without being lewd and crude and foul-mouthed about it either. There is no place for gratuitous sex or vulgarity.
A good speculative story can show the reader how flawed we are, but that there is hope to become something much greater. As well, it can show the benefits and blessings that come with faith in God. We can show the lost coming to faith and the questioning that precedes it, as well as the arguments and excuses that are common to those who refuse to believe. Rarely are such questions ever considered in the light of truth, but Christian writers have that opportunity, and we shouldn’t shy away.
However, while we do have freedom to explore many avenues, we should never find ourselves compromising God’s Word or his person. For example, in the popular novel, The Shack, God is viewed as being completely different in nature than we find him in the pages of scripture. He is viewed as not caring about a person’s sin, or being concerned with judgment–all of which are heretical views. Of course, God is concerned with these things. They are the precise reason why Christ had to come and die for man’s sins.
Likewise, we should never present a view of the world that contradicts God’s Word. Should we fill our pages with characters who believe that evolution is truth and there is no Creator God? That would be directly contradictory to what God’s Word says about the matter. Yet secular novelists do this all of the time. While we might include such characters, we should remember that this is not truth and present it through other characters who understand.
I’m currently working on a new novel series that would seem like a zombie plague has broken out and threatens the world. Are zombies–the living dead–real beings? Could they actually exist? Of course they couldn’t. Dead is dead. Muscles don’t work without blood flow and a heart to pump it and lungs to oxygenate it. So, I can’t do living dead, but I can explore a story about infected individuals who are living and what such a pestilence or plague could do.
Put some characters of faith in those kinds of situations and see what they do. Do they pray? Do they trust God in their circumstances? You wouldn’t believe how many secular readers hate Christian characters who actually pray and believe God is watching over them! And it’s a ripe scenario for lost characters to deal with either coming to faith or the consequences of unbelief. Lots to explore, but we should never compromise the fundamentals of our faith. We are sinners and God wants to save us through faith in the sacrifice his precious Son made on the cross for our sins!
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James Somers is the author of numerous Christian speculative fiction including The Descendants Saga, The Realm Shift Trilogy, and The Serpent Kings Saga. These novels have also recently been released as Audio Books through Audible.com. His latest novel series is The Crisis Sequence which begins with Rage, to be released in the spring of 2014 in both e-book and audio formats.
In addition to writing fiction, James enjoys writing and recording music. He also serves as the Pastor of Ozone Baptist Church in Rockwood, TN, and works as a surgical tech specializing in eye surgery. He resides in Kingston, TN, with his wife and three sons.